tv Earth Focus LINKTV May 1, 2017 4:30pm-5:01pm PDT
>> today on "earth focus," neonicotinoids. is the world's most widelusused pesticide destroying thbabase of the food chain? coming up on "earth focus." >> they're a mutagen. >> they're extremely persistent and extremely mobile. >> they are now found routinely in stream samples as well as well samples across the ununited statates. >> if it's gooing to affecect everything from honeybees to earthwoworms, uh, that iis seris in and of itself. >> neonicotinoids are among the most widely used pesticides in the world. they bring in billions in profits for the companies that make them. but now, growing evidence shows
that t these insecticides are nt only killing target pests, ththy are killing many beneficial species and desestroying the e e of the food chain. thisasas happened before. are they the new ddt? >> we don't want to have an insecticide that kills things it shouldn't. >> we've been somehow railroaded by agrochemical companies intnto relying entirely on their productcts. >> and i thinknk we should be really concerned. >> it began with honeybebees. in 2006, large numbers of worker bees began to abruptly disappear from honeybee colonies. since then, beekeepers haveve bn losing 30%0% or more of ththeir hives annuallyly, losses that ae higher than normal. this phenomenon came to be called colony collapse disorder.
new york state beekeeper jim doan saw it firsthand. >> i''ve worked in bees for now 46 years, and so i know what normal looksks like, and whahat we've seen over t the last 6 or7 yeaears is not normal. >> honeybeeososs ha consequencesoror thecononomy e-e-thirof f fooproducuc in the u. . depes onon heybeee lllinaon.. >> we are putting at risk several hundred billion dollars of produ e everyear.r. it i is significanant because te crops that are pollinat a are some of them that really add diversity and vitality to our diet. >> hoybybee sseses he beenen link t to muiplele ftors,, like peicicideshabibita grgradatn, m maltritioio pathons, and rrrroa me infestation for pesticide manufacturer bayer crop science, the issue is clear. >> most expes s agree that the
single greatest threat to honeybee heah h is t vararro mite, an iasasive ood-d-suing st thatoth didictly pasitizesyoung anadult be and vectors bee diseases. where varroa mites are absent or well conntrolled, honeyeses are thrivingng. >> but jim says he knows why his bees are dying. >> we had a multitude of neonics that were showing up in our bees. it doesn't take much to kill a bee. >> neonicototinoids are a relatively new class of ininsecticicide and coming on ne scene in the 1990s. it isis the fafastest-growing group of ininsecticidedes in the e united states. >> for the companies that make them, neonicotinoids, or neonics, are big business. they bring in over $2.6 billion a year in global sales. they are widely used as seed treatments, applied as soil drench, or sprayed onto foliage. in the u.s., they are used on
some 200 milillion acres of cropland,d, on almostst allorn, canola, and half of all soybean crops, as well as many fruits and vegetables. >> they are used in home and garden products, often at concentrations that are far higher than those you will find in the agricultural sector. >> millions of pounds of these insecticides arare used in urban and suburbrban areas. and in urn areas we'rere usually doing it o have the perfect rose or the nicest rhododendron or a lawn without any insect pests in it. >> manufacturers argue the pest-fighting power of neonics is indispensable to american agriculture. without neonics, consumers would pay higher priceses for food, farm exexpors uuld blessss cpetititi, and the u.s. economomy would suffer. >> in the 1940s, we had the
organochlorine insecticides, such as ddt and endosulfan, and initially these pesticides were viewed as a miracle chemistry. >> w we started usising more a d more of ththese as industrtrial agricululture took k hold in the fifties, sixties, and, really, this is what rachel carson talked about in "silent spring." using all these insecticides was really leading to what she felt was a collapse of biodiversity. we were killing the undernnnning of, uh, , of the food d chain. >> by thehe 1970s, regugulatorse rushing to get these organochlorine pesticides off the market because of their persistencnce in the envnvironmt anand their poible link with birth defects, cancers, eggshell thinning in birds, and other
problems. >> along in the late eighties and early nineties, really people started to think, well, we need something that is more targeted. we need chemicals that are not so broadly toxic to everything. and thahat's really where neonicotinoids came frfro. the idea wawas that these chemicals, although highly toxic to insects, are less acutely toxic to mammals, they're less acutely toxic to fish. they also thought, what if we can target them m inside the plant? ? if wn target them inside the plant, this is going to be better, because the animals outside the plant are not going to be affected. >> they became popular because they we used asas systemic insecticide, so you cocould appy it to t the seed and d it wouldt be put in the grndnd and t plananwould take it as itit grows, eveventually giving the planant protectionon from pests.
>> they'rre found in the leave, the stems, the roots, and the pollen and the nectar. and nobody really thought about that weak link, which was toxic pollen, toxic nectar, and toxic for a long time in these crops. >> > neonicotinoids are nveve toxins affecting the nervss system of organisms. bayer r crp science says they are safe for honeybees. > honeybee health in north ameririca beg t to decle e many years before neonicotinoids s we in use. we've tested these products for many years, and in the field under real exposure condition these products are safe, and h have ts o of studies tohow that. >> many scienststs whos search is not fued b bthe pesticice industry challen t the safety oneonics,aying at even low velslsf exposure can affect the ability hononeybees to comommunicate and c can supps ththeir immune system, making tm momore susceptibible to virusesd varroaoa mites.
>> the effects of these pestiticides on thehe bees is manyfold. it affects reproduction. the navigational ability of the bees is impaired. they can't find their way home. if they can't finththeir wa home, they can't bri resesources back k to the hiveve, the hive s depleted of woworker bees andd forarager bees, , and the hive t crashes after that. >> and it's not only honeybees that are affected. >> we're seeing broad-scale decline in really important pollllinators, l like our bumblebees. perhaps 30% of our bumblebees arere in declinine, a quarter of them at risk of extinction in the near future. >> > david goulson, a scieientit based in the united kingdom, looked into how neonicotinoids affect bumblebees. >> we wanted to know what would happen to a bumblebee nest that was next to a field of a flowering crop like canola that had been treated as a seed dressing with a neonicotinoid. so we simply took bumblebee
nests and we either gave them healthy food for a fortnight or we gave them food that we'd added, um, neonicotinoids to to mimic the exact concentrations that would be in the pollen or nectar they gathered from treated or [indistinct] crop. and then we put the nests outside. they then had to forage for themselves. they had to fly into the landscape and bring back food. we compared how well the nests did that were either treated or not treated. and the effects were really astonishing. we found that the control nests, the ones eating healthy food, grew faster, got much bigger. compared to the treated n nest, the treated nest produced 85% fewer new queens than the healthy, the control nest. if that's happening with wild nests, which there's no reason to believe that it wouldn't be, then that means that the following spring, there are going to be 85% fewer queen bees starting new nests, which you'd imagine could have huge knock-on long-term effects if that's happening every year.
>> and it's not only pollinators at risk. in june 2014, the task force on systemic pessticides, anan independentntp of scientists from 15 nations, found that neonics and the pesticide fipronil also harmed birds, amphibians, reptiles, as well as terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. earthworms, vital foror soil productivityty, are escicially vulnerable. neonics affect their tunneling behavior and sperm quality. jean-marc bonmatin of the national center for scientific research in france, waonone of tthe lead authorors of the gro's findings.. > [speaking f french] >> the task force says systemic
pesticide contamination is so widespread that the diversity and stability of the world's ecosystems is at risk. the task force based its findings on an analysis s of 800 peer-reviewed reportrts, the mot comprehensive reveview of the scientific literature on systemic pesticides to date. when asked to comment, bayer crop science said the task force only looks at w worst-casee scenarios, and ththat studies under realistic field conditions show that systemic pesticides do not harm honeybees, birds, or other wildlife. >> the main concern with neonics is ththat they have such a high toxicity to a broad range of invertebrates, terrestrial and aquatic. they are e extremely persistent and extremely mobile.
and you put those 3 conditions together and you're talking about reremoval of a large segmt of the invertebrate community. >> they'rere accumulining in t soil. eyey're drawn up b hedgerow pnts, b btrees ggrowinin f faland, and so on ando esessentlly anytng that's ling in faland is beg slow poisoned l the time.. >> t the other thihing thahas se ouout is that t they're e much e water soluble than eveveryone ws led to beliieve. this means s tt when they get intoto the ground with water, t they move readilyn across the environment. they are now found routinely in stream samples as well as well samples across ththe united states. >> birds like swifts and swallows depend on insects as a food source. if insects are killed in their breeding ground, usually a body of water, birds are deprived of food.
>> the concentrations of the neonics in our waterways are sufficient to kill the aquatic invertebrate life on which these birds depend. >> in canada, where neonicotinoids are widely used on crops, dr. christy morrissey is also finding high levels of wetland contamination. she focuses her research in canada's breadbasket, the prairie pothole region of saskatchewan, where agricultural land is laced with potholes, small temporary ponds fed by snowmelt and rain. >> in 2013 we found up to 90% of the ponds s that we sampled n spring, even before the farmers were out seeding, had detectable levels of neonics in them. but our peak concentrations occurred after seeding, not surprising, particularly after rainfall events, at levels that were, you know, upwards of, uh,
3 parts per billion, which is well known to affect aquatic insects. >> with over 40% of the cropland in canada's prairies treated with neonicotinoids, the impact on aquatic insects and the animals that rely on them for food could be significant. dr. momorrissey's s study is the first to look into this issue in canada. >> we have a field study that's trying to understand how neonicotinoids potentially get into wetlands and whether or not they affect aquatic invertebrates, which are the base of the food chain for all kinds of other wildlife species, and in particular, birds. so we're trying to link these 3 different things, um, from the--from the pesticide on the field to the wetlands to the bugs, and ultimately to the birds.s. we've found that neonicotinoids across the board have a range of toxicity for the different insect species. but for a certain group, and particularly the mayflies
and the midges, these species are extremely sensitive to neonicotinoids. >> the chicks, the young birds, need that supply of insects. as do the, uh, the female birds, the hens, when they're laying their eggs. they need that high protein source. and there's some critical points in birds' life where insects are key and critical.l. and if the--t-the amount, the availability of insects is reduced, it has been shown that that affects reproduction. >> so we put nest boxes up in different sites, some that are uncontaminated, that have no pesticide use and in siteses tht are morere agriculturally intensive that hahave extensive use of neonicotinoids. >> morrissey is only a year and a half into a 4-year study, but is already starting to see some alarming effects. >> the birds are lower body mass or got poor body condition at some of these agriculturally
intensive sites. so we know that therere is some lilink or some correlelation between n how wele birds s are doing in terms of their physiology and their health and their body condition and how many bugs or how abundant the bugs are. and that seems to relate well with the, uh, presence and levels of contamination in ththese ponds. >> there have been few studies to date on how neonics affect ocean life. this is an area of specialization for dr. craig downs, and what he is learning is troubling. >> for example, imidacloprid can affect crab larvvae as low as 50 parts per quadrillion.n. it afaffects ththeir mitochondra at this level, so that it's a mitochondrial poison. it can affect their muscles. if the mitochohondria a are damaged ine muscles, it c can cause paralys.
it also causes immune suppression in these crabs. meaning that they are much more sususceptible to bacterial infections and fungal infections when co-e-exposed with imidacloloprid. >> craig downs also studies the impact of imidacloprid on sea urchins. >> neonicotinoids cause dna damage in sea urchin sperm as low as 500 parts per trillion. it c causes developmental abnormalities as low as 5 parts per trillion. it means that they're a mutagen. um, it t meas there's a d direct threat to the rreproductivive fitness of the entire biodiversity of marine environments. if you have damage to sperm or if you have damage to eggs, the next gegeneration will not be as fit or might not come into e existence at all. um, so itit threatens steterili. >> the meso-american reef stretches 700 miles from the northern tip of mexico's yucatan
peninsula to honduras. it is ho t to a de d divsity ofararine fe. . andr. dodos found its s conminanatewith neonicononoids rgelely a rult ofunoff fr agrultural elds. >> 8 yes ago, aoral ree organinismide surv was cocoucted d measu t the aununt of pesticides th could b b oundnd in leaea 22 coral reef ornismsms,anging from corarals to que c concho a a nuer off coraleeeef fies. . wh we discoved d was at o outf alll the splples tt wewe clecteded %% of e sampmps that w collected were contaminated with imidadacloprid. 53% of f the sas wewe collected were c contamimid wiwith fipronil, which is anothr systemic pesticide. so the level of contamimination on n a coral reef, espececially thee second-d-largest barrier reef in the world, is pretty disturbing.
>> if neonicscs harm animals,s, what a about people?e? in human surrogates like rats and mice, neonics are linked to a wide range of disorders. and in human blood studies, they are linked to dna a damage and cell mutations. federal agencies like the environmental protection agency are really supposed to be, um, mamanaging these insecticides in a way that causes minimal harm to humans and other animals. >> startining in the 1990s, agency scientists were raising red flags about the mobility, the persistence, the toxicity of these e neonic products, inluluding thehe effects on pollinators and other wildlife. >> epa documents show agency scientists knew imidacloprid is highly toxic to songbirds,
aquatic invertebrates, and honeybees as early as 1993. yet epa allowed imidacloprid on the u.s. market a year later. after decades of expurure, the consesequences epa a scientistse warned about are now confirmed by the task force on systemic pesticides. >> and unfortunately, these chchemicals are often, and i wod say most of f the time, rereased beforee there is s adequate informatioto show whether they arare harmful inin the environo. i thinknk neonicotinonoids are a prime exexample of thahat. >> epa assesses risk posed by pesticides prior to their release on the market. safety studies are typically conducted and paid for by pesticide manufacturers on their own product. epa says its decisions are informed by the best science available. in addition to studies by manufacturers, epa scientists review pesticide
studies from peer-reviewed scientific journals and data from a wide variety of sources when they are available. but studies on pesticide safety that come out after a pesticicide isn thee market may not be evaluated by y epa until a a pesticide cos up for rereview, a process that canakake long a a15 yea.. farmers like drew stabler of laytonsville, maryland say that neonics can be used safely and are indispensable to their business. >> well, i think that any product t that's on t the markes been tested and proven to do a a job, and whave faith i in tt process. myself as a farmer, i've been farming 50, 60 years. i've been lucky enough to make a living doing what i like to do.nd we try y to use everything that's been tested and approved
and recommended at certain times and how much. we do that both for the benefit of the environment and the benefit of our pocketbook. you keep hearing about extra people in the world that need to bebe fed, so we c't back off on what our production ababilities arare. we feel we he to keep improving our production abilities. and some of these products will contriribute to that. >> the reasoson that we're worrd about neneonicotinoids specifically is s because e th'e being used at an unprecedented scale. >> essentially, it seems to me the agri-chemical industry has persuaded everyone that they need these products as an insurance against a pest outbreak in their crop. but actually, most of the t time the pests aren't there. so you're insuring against something which is never gonna happen. >> they have a real impact on natural enemies of the crop pests. we can cause secondary
pest outbreaks because these chemicals are so efficient at killing the predators and the parasites of the crop pests. perhrhaps 70% of the neonicotinoids usesed on soybeans in a seed treatment are not needed. there's nono pest tt they're controlling. so ifif we just use them only when they were needed, we c could eliminae inseseicide use e over millionsf acres. >> many people would say we need pesticides to grow the food to feed the growing world, the human population, and that maybe it's a necessary evil to sacrifice some wildlife along the way. fine. so you then look to see, to try to weigh up the damage that neonicotinoids seem to be doing against the benefit we get from them in terms of increased crop yield. and amazingly, it turns out there's virtually no evidence that they're actually effective. so there have been a whole sway
of studies, particularly from north america, come out in the last year or two where they've simply grown crops with and without seed dressing and find that they get exactly the same yield without the seed dressing as they do with it. >> some a actions arere being tn to curb ththe use of n neonics.n eeuropetthe european ununion banned 3 neonics s for a periof two years inin 2013. thehe ban tatargets neonics s used oplplas and cerealsls attractivive to popollinators. inin the uniteted states, the saving america's pollinators act was introduced in congress in 2013. earl blumenauer was one of the sponsors of the bill. >> what we're attempting to do with this legegislation is blow a whistle. stotop moving f forwd with the products witithin the next 6 months that has this potential exceedidingly damagagg effect and prohibit their use until we''re able to follow through on the r research to pre
ththat they're safe. > but congressional action is unlikely any time soon. in 2014, neonics were banned by the cities of eugene, oregon and spokane, washington on municipal property. the u.s. fish and wildlife servicce announceced ps to ban neonics from all wildlife refuges b by 2016. and the white house launched an initiative to strengthen federal action to improve pollinator research and to protect pollinator habitat. >> there are things that we can't control or not easily regulate, thihings like climatee change, eveven habitat loss are things that we can't control. but things like pesticides we can. >> well, nature is pretty good at fixining itself. but then tht assumes that you're going to remove the pressures that we're putting on it now. >> we depend on all these things. we depend on bees to